What is Occupational Therapy?

This post isn’t book related, but it is still something I believe is necessary to write about.

Almost constantly, I get asked the question “What is occupational therapy?” It seems there are more people who don’t know what it is than those who do. (It was only a few years ago I even knew what OT was!) So, in this post, I’m going to answer this seemingly complicated but rather simple question.

First off, let me answer some frequently asked questions:

Is it like physicial therapy?

No, it’s not like physical therapy. The two are very different, but beneficial in their own ways.

Do you help people with their jobs?

Well, kind of, but not necessarily in the sense you are referring to.

According to AOTA (American Occupational Therapist Association):

“The practice of occupational therapy means the therapeutic use of occupations, including everyday life activities with individuals, groups, populations, or organizations to support participation, performance, and function in roles and situations in home, school, workplace, community, and other settings. Occupational therapy services are provided for habilitation, rehabilitation, and the promotion of health and wellness to those who have or are at risk for developing an illness, injury, disease, disorder, condition, impairment, disability, activity limitation, or participation restriction. Occupational therapy addresses the physical, cognitive, psycho social, sensory-perceptual, and other aspects of performance in a variety of contexts and environments to support engagement in occupations that affect physical and mental health, well-being, and quality of life.”


So, yeah, what does this even mean?

It means that in my career, I am gonna help individuals struggling with social, mental, or physical disabilities/illnesses with their every day occupations.

The difference between occupational therapy and other forms of  therapy is that OT’s focus on every aspect of the individual: social, cognitive, physical, and emotional. This is what I, personally, have always loved and appreciated about OT.

To give a few common examples..

  1. If an OT is given a child with a developmental disorder, this child may have some difficulty interacting with the environment surrounding him/her. This could lead to problems with coordination, aggression, self care, etc. It would then be my job to work with the child to overcome these barriers as best they can. Ways to overcome these barriers would be:
    1. Teaching client healthy ways to deal with their aggression (Talking it out, leaving a room, calming mechanisms)
    2. Working on coordination by kicking or throwing a ball back and forth
    3. Explaining exactly how to do certain self care activities, such as making a sandwich or brushing teeth.
  2. If a client experiences a stroke, they might suffer from paralysis to one side of the body, decreased endurance/strength, loss of memory, etc.

As a little comparison between PT and OT, here is what each would do in this specific case:


The physical therapist in this case would work with the client to build strength and endurance in the effected body parts. Examples would be walking, lifting weights, stretches, etc.


The occupational therapist might do some work with the client’s loss of strength/endurance (mainly if the effected limbs are their hands, arms, or shoulders.) The OT would also work with the client’s memory; how would they do this? Things such as puzzles, to-do lists, and even the game memory could be of assistance to the client. The OT would also make sure the client can get back to doing household chores, if need be; things like folding laundry, cooking dinner, and bathing are such examples.

**these are just a few situations where occupational therapy is helpful.. 🙂

Here are some videos I have watched over the past few years that I feel describe OT very well:

Because of Occupational Therapy

The Many Faces of OT’s

What Does An Occupational Therapist Do? (um yeah excuse the awkward dancing at the end..)

All in all, occupational therapists help an individual get back to their daily routine so they can be as happy, functional, healthy, and safe as possible.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this sufficiently explains what occupational therapy is and what OT’s do!


Cover photo from http://www.caot.ca/default.asp?pageid=190

Author: xobrandilarissa

Welcome to my little corner of the world~

2 thoughts on “What is Occupational Therapy?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s